my life He is working in now would be unreachable. As we approach our return date, I have asked the Lord for two things in my personal life. First, that he would establish in me disciplines, spiritual and physical, that will help me to walk through the transition to come and to help me stay connected to Him. And second, that I would be open to whatever else God wants to work on in me while we are still here in Costa Rica, living at a slower pace and in a routine with which I am familiar. I believe the Lord is answering my prayers, evidenced by my “boot camp.”
During this time I have been faced with two times, and two different ways, I have caused deep hurt in Bart’s life. They were things that happened years ago but nonetheless they wounded him, and our relationship, deeply. When he shared these with me I was faced with the depth of my sin. In response I had to choose a path. The enemy held these sins in front of me and made me feel guilty and ashamed, but I could also hear the Holy Spirit calling me not to guilt but to conviction. And that conviction led to grief over what I had done, not shame. For the first time, I was able to clearly understand the differences between guilt and shame which come from Satan, and conviction and grief which come from God by his Holy Spirit. Not only are they from two opposing sources, they lead to two very different places, and I had, and continue to have, a choice as to which path I follow.
There is no doubt in my mind that guilt and shame are tools of the enemy who desires to render us Christians useless in the Kingdom of God. John 10:10 teaches us that, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” I believe the enemy desires for us to feel guilty and live in shame because it paralyzes us. It renders us completely ineffective to what Christ has called us. It says that there is no good in us and we are no good to anyone. And what better way for the enemy to win in the lives of Christians then to try and make us believe that we are of no value and have nothing to offer those around us.
But, conviction and grief, or sorrow, are so very different. In 2 Corinthians 7:10 we read, “For godly grief [godly sorrow, NIV] produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief [shame] produces death. They bring to light our sin, our inability to do to the right thing. They show us our fallen nature and our desperate need for a savior. And they affect change. When we suffer grief over the way we have lived, over how we have hurt someone, over the problems and trouble that we have caused, we can look for a better way. We can look to and live in the way Christ shows us. When our grief is godly, it leads to repentance, which is turning from our sin and walking anew in the way of Christ.
I did just a brief word study of the word shame in Scripture. I would encourage you to do the same. Shame is most often associated with punishment and is seems to be reserved for those who stand against Israel, for those who sin against God, and what Christ suffered in the moments leading up to his crucifixion when he payed for our sin against God.
Grief on the other hand is an emotion we can see in the Psalms, in Lamentations, in the writings of Paul, and in Jesus himself. Jesus wept. Jesus wept over the death of his friend Lazarus (John 11:35) and the sadness that Lazarus' sisters were having to endure even though Jesus knew he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. And he wept over Jerusalem and the chance they missed in recognizing him as the Messiah (Luke 19:41). Though he knew he was about to go to Calvary and pay for not only the sin of all of Israel, but the sin of all the people who would ever live, his spirit was grieved. Isaiah 3:53 teaches us that Jesus was a man aquatinted with grief and Hebrews 12:2 tells us he despised shame. If grief and shame are the same thing, why does Jesus Christ despise one and is personally acquainted with the other?
Godly grief is the way of Christ and can have a profound effect in our own lives. Shame can too, but it does not lead to a good end.
Shame leads to darkness and imprisonment, whereas godly grief and sorrow leads to light and freedom. Yes, in the moment it is difficult to face our sin, but on the other side of that is a right relationship with the Light of the world (John 8:12).
Shame says you are bad because you did something wrong. Grief and sorrow says yes, what you did was wrong, but it is not who you are. As Christians we are adopted children of God, promised an inheritance, and sealed by the Holy Spirit until Christ’s return (Ephesians 1:3-14) and we are also new creations, no longer who we were (2 Corinthians 5:17). Mustn't it only be because of the deception of the enemy that we, as Christians, don’t understand our worth?
Shame causes us to continue in the same way, causing the same hurts and the same problems. It causes us to become stuck because we become fearful of what the change might require or because the status quo is just easier. Godly grief shows a way out, a better way that we can face with courage given us by the Holy Spirit. Grief doesn't just show us how to be better, which it does, but it points us to the only one who truly is better, Jesus Christ. He is the only one who, through his Holy Spirit, can heal us, free us, and teach us how to live as He did (Luke 4:18-19).
Shame ultimately leads to more sin which leads to more shame which leads to more sin, which in the end, leads to death (Romans 6:23). But, godly grief leads to repentance of our sin and creates room for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. It opens up our hearts and allows the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out and shows us the way to freedom (Romans 8:1-11).
Facing the hurt that I caused was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. Facing the fact that my own sin was the cause of that hurt was even more difficult. But on the other side, after seeking forgiveness from my Heavenly Father and from Bart, I can walk in freedom. Yes, I will fail again. Yes, I will hurt Bart again, but it will be another opportunity to learn and to grow in my relationship with him and in my relationship with God. That’s the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in me and in my marriage and I am ever so grateful for it.
Hi! I am Heather Carty. I'm a wife, a mother, a musician, and a missionary, among many other things. I see myself as a recovering "Older Brother" (see Tim Keller's Prodigal God) who desires to find God's joy in this journey called life. Which, by the way, has not gone at all as I had planned, but has turned out way better than I could have ever imagined.